Six months ago, a line of voters snaked around the building and into the parking lot of this polling spot on Admiral Boulevard.
On Tuesday — months after a national election that some predicted might jump-start local engagement — that lot is empty.
“Turn my TV down,” an election worker says to one of three other poll workers who greet a lone voter walking through the side door of a union hall.
Across town, poll worker Christopher Stone held the door for the only voter to walk into the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church fellowship hall in 30 minutes.
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“Yep, it’s been slow,” Stone said.
Only 10 percent of the voting population was expected to come out to the polls Tuesday for the Kansas City municipal election. Others worried that a forecast of rain might affect voter turnout during hours after work.
Although the ballot would ask voters to consider the city’s largest general obligation bond request, as well as two additional petition initiatives involving a sales tax and marijuana penalties, polling locations remained uncrowded or empty for much of the day.
Still, the voters who visited the polls Tuesday had specific issues on their mind.
They came, intrigued and excited, by the marijuana question.
Ian Tirone, a 28-year-old graphic designer, came to the polls to vote for the reduction of penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession captured the attention of Tirone and his friends this year, he said.
Tirone said he feels that people use pot for a variety of reasons, including medicinal purposes. He believes its safer to use in some ways than alcohol, and he believes current penalties — which can include jail time and fines up to $500 — are too harsh.
“We have a lot of nonviolent criminals in prison because of marijuana possession,” Tirone said.
Others came for the animals.
Bill Pendland, 82, walked from his home to his polling spot at the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. He came out primarily to support the city general obligation bonds — especially Question 3, which in part raises funds for a new animal shelter. He thinks of the dachshunds he used to own and adore, but have since died. First there was Gretchen, then Grisley, who died recently at 14.
“That’s the main reason I came,” Pendland says. “I’m a dog lover.”
Marcella Banks, 62, came to the polls because she is frustrated with city government and unwilling to see property values and sales tax increase when she isn’t convinced she’ll see the impact in her neighborhood.
Banks voted no on every tax increase she saw on her ballot — the city’s general obligation bond package that would slowly increase property taxes to raise millions needed to improve city infrastructure and the One City 10-year sales tax, a citizen-driven initiative to raise money to invest in the Prospect Corridor of the city where she lives.
But even though the problems Banks says she sees in her neighborhood — potholes, sewer issues, etc. — are problems backers of both city and citizen’s initiatives have said they could fix, Banks says she’s lost faith in the system.
She won’t pay more, she says, for projects she’s not sure will ultimately benefit her.
“They want to raise all these taxes, and they don’t put the money where they are supposed to,” said Banks, who only voted yes for the marijuana initiative Tuesday. “I can’t believe what they say anymore.”
That skepticism extended to Derrel Jones, who spent Tuesday canvassing outside a polling location for the general obligation bond initiative, even though he wasn’t sure if he would ultimately vote. He spoke passionately about a nephew he says is serving prison time for marijuana possession.
“We have to take care of this,” Jones said. “You are spending taxpayers money” when violators serve prison time.
But even so, Jones wasn’t sure if he would vote. The presidential election left him disillusioned with the voting process, he said. Mostly, he said he wasn’t sure he saw the point.
“Now, people are saying, ‘Why should I vote?’ ” Jones said. “My vote don’t count.”
Making every vote count is something Tirone said he thought a lot about after the presidential election. A liberal-leaning voter, Tirone said he read a lot of post-election analysis about the failure of the Democratic Party to come out to the polls and vowed to participate more in the local elections.
Even so, and even though he said he and his friends had been following the evolution of the marijuana initiative, Tirone almost forgot about the election.
He ate dinner with friends Monday night, and it wasn’t until the election came up in conversation that he realized the importance of April 4.
“I thought: ‘That’s tomorrow,’ ” Tirone said said. “How come this hasn’t been on my newsfeed?”